The Debate: Understanding Federalism

Federalism sufficiently not confederacy.

By Deng Turuk Liem

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have watched the raising of the new country's flag at an independence ceremony in the capital, Juba.(Photo: Reutrers)

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese celebrating the raising of the new country’s flag at an independence ceremony in the capital, Juba. Today the country is bitterly divided due to its current system of governance, and south Sudanese are reconsidering a system that would prevent similar tragedy and develop the country(Photo: Reutrers)

June 10, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — There are handful promulgating arguments against and for a proposed federal system as impressive tool for restructuring South Sudan, amongst South Sudanese citizens. Many people especially from greater Bhar El Gazal, as matter of facts, have even gone far in demonstrating their grievances against federalism by asking what seems to be serious question to them, as if the federalism is going to be fully implemented, will the remains of our martyrs who died all over South Sudan during liberation struggle be collected and delivered back to where they were belonged?

On other hand, greater Bhar El Gazal youth’s forum convened in Warrap State on the 3rd of June 2014 and published by Gurtong site, decried its intention against federal system coined lack of developments, insecurity and tribalism as fundamental reasons behind their decision. Their resolution, however, eloquently demonstrated that forming federal state at the backdrop of tribal conflicts, where tension between states and tribes is still at high level and the insecurity where arms rebellion becomes a habit is not a great idea to begin with as it will promote tribalism and all ills come with it. This forum unknowingly or knowingly instead was, therefore, declared its supports for devolution governance system as good system to start with and that it will pave a way for us to a peaceful federal system in our maturity time.

Devolution is defined as act or process by which a central government gives or delegates power, property, etc. to local groups or governments. It sounds great, but if they took a look at it very closely with insight and tremendous senses of understandings, they would understand that, it is what we have in hands currently. As per my understanding, it is a status quo. It is not a new political solution to use for diagnosing current political predicaments. It is, notwithstanding, a failed old political instrument that cannot be reused any longer in diagnosing our current deteriorated political situation.

In our current system of government, albeit, everything that we do in our states, counties, payoms and bomas, is what our central government in Juba delegates or mandates us to do. All revenues throughout the country, include the two percent of oil shares allocate to oil producing states, are collectively taken to Juba first and later reallocated back to states, counties, payoms and bomas by central government with specific mandates attached to for states and local governments to execute. This system did not work and will never work or give us any easy path to nation-building. If this is the case, we all must be hungry with devolution system of government and reject it big time because it is what had failed us and dauntingly promoted tribalism, nepotism, corruption and unintermitted arm conflicts.

My simple response to the opponents of federalism who call it a quit is that, Sirs, federalism sufficiently not confederacy. It is not a divided independence nations with different national constitutions as you are allegedly put it. In this case, you might, however, confuse it (federalism) with confederalism where different countries from region form confederal government merely to defense the interests of that particular region. In confederacy, each country has it owns national constitution, army, currency, judicial, and etc. The relevant examples of confederal governments available on top of my mind are AU, EU, IGAD and Arab League among others.

In contrast, unlike devolution, federalism renders full constitutional rights, but not delegations of powers to state or local governments, as in case of devolution. It is, however, a system that constitutionally enhances full decentralization of a democratic government where state governments have an independent constitution and mutual responsibility to make it owns decisions, renders services to its own designated population, and creates development programs in its own realms without any interference from federal government. The national government has stakes only on those programs which it provides funding for. In liberal federalism states such as the United States of others, each state has rights to repudiate any national government programs which carry heavily mandates and restrictions.

It is a system where a national security businesses such as national defense, foreign affairs, interior, federal judicial, include Supreme Court and other important national installations which states cannot handle to manage, are run by and/or permanently remain in hand of national government, that means one country with fully decentralized government system. For your vivid information, the army of Federal Republic of South Sudan will not be separated, hence, they will live, deploy and fight together under one commander-in-chief in any conflict that needs their participations as brothers and sisters in one national army. But, not as private recruited Doot Koch Beny militias who created havoc in Capital Juba in name of fabricated coup d’état and terrorized population based on tribal grounds.For these reasons, we do not have any validated reason deems fit to collect the remains of our martyrs and delivered them back to where they were belonged since we will remain having one national government with one national army.

I personally believe that, federalism is what will earnestly spare us and our diversity as nation. Without it coherently implementations, the army conflicts will never cease in South Sudan as the power struggles over centralized national resources will never halt. It is a system that will indiscriminately obligate all South Sudanese citizens staying and participating in developing of their home states, counties, payoms and bomas, rather than to run away from home and reside in Capital Juba without a portfolio simply because Juba designated a place where national resources are strictly held.

The majority of those innocent Nuer who lost their lives in Capital Juba in the aftermath of December 15, 2013 event, were jobless who had nothing to do in their home states to rely on for living. Then, they went to Juba looking for jobs because Juba was only a designated place for them to go and got employments, be it a production or profession.

James Wani Igga, the current vice president of Republic of South Sudan, on the other hand, unpleasantly urged Equatoria people in their consultative forum convened in Juba last week not to support a proposed federalism idea by rebels, even though he has been constantly an utmost supporter of this great idea, simply because it is a stolen thing from them, the Equatoria people by Dr. Riek Machar. He was even gone in depth by mentioning that, it was stolen from us here in Nyakuron Cultural Center by Dr. Riek Machar. He (James Wani) referred to Equatoria conference that took place back in 2011 shortly after South Sudan became independence sovereignty state and it was event where they came up with federalism idea as it should be utmost system to governing South Sudan. James Wani Igga joined by his boss Salva Kiir Mayardit by elaborating that, federalism idea is not Dr. Riek Machar proposal. It is a proposal that South Sudanese had demanded since Juba convention and went on.

Based on my personal understanding, and I share it too with other commentators is that, the arguments could not be about who proposed it at the onset, but it could be about, if it is a good proposal to be implemented. If this is the case, the second argument should be about which of two or more form of federal systems is best for us?The two important form of federal systems are parliamentarian and presidential.

  1. Parliamentarian federal system: It is a system that is run by prime minister as a leader of parliament and when citizens go for elections they are elected parliament along with chosen candidates by parties for prime minister Position. Whichever party wins supermajority of vote in parliament possesses Prime Minister Position and that party must be deemed a ruling party for that particular term of that government. If no party wins supermajority, therefore, the unity government should be formed through bilateral agreements until next elections cycle surfaced, and that the party with small margin victory takes the Prime Minster position and the ministries department heads could be appointed subsequently, according to how many seats each party possesses in parliament.

In the absence of Kingdom (King or Queen), the parliament shall appoint president who mandates is to step in to dissolve parliament should it needs or deems fit through certain conditions and criteria inscribed in national federal permanent constitution to follow in case of national political crisis or failure to governance the country like what had happened to General Salva Kiir government, meanwhile the judicial remains attaining its own independence to interpret laws in need of justices or given checks and balances.

  1. Presidential federal system: It is a system where citizens are directly elected president and parliament. The president afterward is mandated to appoint judicial branch of government officials or judges, and totally he or she has no any capacity or power to intervene with parliament business as an independence elected representatives of the people rather than to engage collectively with them in national discourses. In this system, all branches of government attain their own independence to give checks and balances to each others.

In this system, like parliamentarian system, each designated state attains their independence with their state constitutions, wholly or partially, not interfering with national constitution. Should there is any allegedly interferences with federal law, the federal judge would intervene with scrutiny and declared such a violation of federal law unconstitutional. It is system that all citizens will pay federal as well as state government taxations. In case of South Sudan, where resources may be held by state governments, therefore, each state can contribute equal shares to federal government.

Lastly, Mr. Wani Igga and them (Federal system opponents or critics) would have known that any proposal always hails from one smart person in society and that it may be pushing for implementation by others with utmost convictions and dedications, if it needs be. Claiming that, it was not originally Dr. Riek Machar’s proposal; therefore, we must not support it until the dead come back to live, is unsubstantiated arguments. Hence, it lacks elucidative. It will not take us anywhere as people and the nation. It has never been the case in the whole world because of that, Mr. Salva Kiir and Wani Igga should mind their own businesses and leave South Sudanese alone in this quest for federal system. We are for federalism and we will never back down from its quest until we achieve it.

Mr. Wani Igga must understand that Equatora will not do it alone without the participation of Upper Nile. Given invigorate supports to Salva Kiir and Bhar El Gazalians elites to implement their dauntingly marginalization programs at the expense of South Sudanese attributed to the killings of Nuer innocent civilians, is unwise and disproportionate.

Mr. Salva Kiir, you had unpleasantly mentioned that, you could not force it (federalism) on us, the people of South Sudan, but people would decide it themselves. Absolutely Mr. Salva Kiir, we, the people have never attempted to force you to do it for us through your unwanted presidential decrees as you allegedly put it. We are tired of being ruled by excessive presidential decrees. You have excess the edges of executive orders. However, we, the people of South Sudan are the ones who demanded it (federalism) ourselves and we will implement it ourselves. We do not need you to do it for us. I think I make it abundantly clear to you Mr. Salva Kiir and that you clearly understand it now better than before.

Most importantly, I therefore not recognize you as either my or South Sudan president because you had lost the legitimacy to be president after you systematically massacred my people on tribal grounds for political reasons. And those in fact were your national constituencies who were elected you in 2010 elections before you untimely sent them to their new homes in heaven in 2013.

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The author, Deng Turuk Liem, is a South Sudanese living in the United Stated. He can be reached by dialing 515-306-4651 or email dengliem@yahoo.com.

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